Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Every Spring tender asparagus spears emerge out of the dirt, like miniature trees from an underground world. It is so cool how the spears seem to pop up out of nothing and creep upward toward the sun. It is a wonder to me how these funny looking green stalks grow.

Up until a few years ago, I had no clue about their growth habit until I saw them sprouting in my sister’s garden. Also, the spears don’t just die away after weeks of cutting them back. Eventually, the remaining tips of the spears will loosen and sprout forth 4 to 6 foot feathery fronds for the remaining summer. Fortunately, come the following Spring, this miracle occurs again and asparagus spears emerge for another season.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Morning light on growing asparagus spears. Photograph by Perrin Smith

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

If an opportunity comes your way, eating freshly picked asparagus is a special treat. Even if you do not like asparagus, you might be pleasantly surprised once you have tasted the newly picked spears. It is a wonder how different freshly grown asparagus tastes compared to the store-bought kind. There is a slightly bitter, slightly sweet, distinctive greenish earthy flavor. Honestly, any vegetable straight from a garden tastes better because it is fresher and given more TLC. I am always grateful for the garden gifts from my sister and friends.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Dressing reicpe

Like a lot of vegetables, asparagus is very easy to prepare and does not require a detailed recipe to enjoy. The most important consideration is to not over cook them. The total amount of cooking time will depend on how thick the spears are, and your method of cooking. Some of my favorite ways to cook asparagus are: simmering, braising, roasting, and grilling. All methods produce good results. Ultimately, no matter which way you want to prepare them, just cook them until they are tender and have a slight crispness when you bite into one.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
How to Prep Asparagus

If you have never made asparagus here are some tips. There is some debate about how to prep asparagus. Should you peel them? Do the ends need trimming? Do you need a fancy asparagus steamer to make them? First, no fancy steamer pot required. I am not a big gadget person and work very hard to buy kitchen items that have more than one purpose. Steaming is a great way to cook asparagus and can effectively be done without an asparagus steamer in a microwave oven.

Trimming off the woody ends is a good idea, especially for the thicker stalks. Thin stalks don’t always need to be trimmed, but the thick ones do. I usually hold the bottom of a spear with one hand and place the other hand near the center of the stalk, then bend the two points downwards. The theory is asparagus will break at the place where the woody tip ends. This sounds good in theory, but it does not work perfectly all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes bending the stalk breaks off tender and edible sections.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Trim off the woody end.

Another trimming method is, to line the asparagus up end to end and cut off the ends about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from the bottom. You can see a change in color in the spear as they it gets less woody. The woody part will be whiter in color. Additionally, you can feel with your fingertips where the woody part ends. The woody part will be harder and denser.

To peel or not to peel, that is the question. My answer is sometimes I peel the spears, sometimes I don’t. There is no particular reason for my decision and most of the time I leave the spears alone. Honestly, it depends on how much time I have or how fancy I want to be. If you have older and fatter asparagus, the skin is tougher and not as pleasant to eat. Whereas the thinner stalks have tender skin and easier to eat.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

To peel the skin, hold the asparagus near the tip in your non-active hand with the cut end pointing away from you. Hold the vegetable peeler in the other hand and begin in a downward motion, peeling off the skin. Start about a third of the way down from the tip and move to the bottom. You don’t want to peel off a lot of the spear, only the thin layer of skin.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

When I am in a hurry or preoccupied with another part of the meal, I like to simmer asparagus for around 4 minutes in salted boiling water. Once drained, I give them a light coating of olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and add minced herbs and/or lemon zest. It is as easy as that. You can add lemon juice or any acid, but it will change the color from bright green to khaki green.

There are times when I want to give my vegetables some extra pizzazz as a part of a composed meal. Asparagus with orange mayonnaise dressing adds pizzazz and offers an unexpected flavor with your asparagus and dinner. It is perfect for asparagus served at room temperature or cold. This recipe is easily adaptable, just add the amount of orange juice to give your mayonnaise the consistently and orange flavor that you want. Additionally, it is easy to prepare a head of time and If you own an immersion blender, even easier to make.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Homemade mayonnaise is a new discovery of mine. I love how light the flavor is. Some recipes call for extra virgin olive oil, but I find that it has too strong of a flavor so I use olive oil instead. If you do not have a blender, food processor or immersion blender, you can still make mayonnaise the old-fashioned way. Use a sturdy bowl, a good wire whisk, and a lot of continuous whisking by hand power. I think it is worth it.

This recipe is a combo of two. I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s technique for quick homemade mayonnaise  using an immersion blender. His technique has produced the most consistent results for me. I have made mayonnaise with my food processor, but the success depends on how slowly the oil drips into the eggs while the machine is running.

The orange mayonnaise comes from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I was intrigued with her suggestion to use this with asparagus and wanted to try it out. I love her work and she is a great resource for vegetarian cooking.

As usual, Deborah Madison is right on. The orange mayonnaise brings a delicate and unexpected fruity orange flavor with the asparagus.  She also recommends using the orange mayonnaise with broccoli, fennel, and cauliflower.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: Vegetable side dish

3-4 servings depending on size

Serving Size: 6-8 spears per person

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

A delightful recipe of tender Spring Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing. The delicate flavors of the dressing add subtly and sophistication to a vegetable platter or side dish with salmon, chicken or grilled meats.

The mayonnaise recipe is adapted from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Foolproof Homemade Mayonnaise, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Ingredients

    For the Asparagus
  • 1 pound asparagus, cleaned and woody ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  • 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • zest from half an orange
  • 4 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice, or more to taste
    Mayonnaise - makes 2 cups
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • One small clove garlic, finely minced or grated with a microplane (optional)
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1-2 Tbs water
  • 1 cup of canola oil
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

    Asparagus
  1. Trim the asparagus as needed. If you peel them, hold each asparagus at the tip and beginning around a third of the way down, gently peel off the thin skin with a vegetable peeler. Peel down lengthwise along the steam and work your way around.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus. Fill a medium bowl part way with ice and add water to cover. Set the bowl aside near the stove.
  3. Put water in a shallow sauce pan and add a pinch of kosher salt. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a bowl. Add the trimmed asparagus and simmer in the boiling water about 4 minutes. The total cooking time will depend on how thick the asparagus spears are. The asparagus should be tender, but still have some crispness and look bright green.
  4. Remove the asparagus with tongs or a spider, and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus bright green.
  5. Once cooled, remove the asparagus from the ice bath and dry on clean kitchen towel. (Ahead of time note, wrap the asparagus in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator until you need them. Eat the asparagus the same day you cook them.
    Homemade Mayonnaise
  1. Immersion blender method by Kenji Lopez-Alt: Use a tall cup just large enough for the immersion blender head to fit in, place the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and one tablespoon of water inside the cup. Slowly add the canola oil to the eggs then slide the head of the immersion blender inside the cup until it rests on the bottom. Hold onto the cup with one hand and turn on the immersion blender. The egg and oil will begin to emulsify. As the oil get pulled down to the bottom, very slowly raise the immersion blender up. You will see the mayonnaise begin to form and the oil being sucked towards to bottom and emulsify.
  2. Once all the oil has emulsified, turn off the immersion blender and scrape out with a rubber spatula, the mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl large enough to whisk in the remaining oil. Hold the bowl steady with your inactive hand and whisk up the mayonnaise. Drizzle in the olive oil small amounts at a time, about a tablespoon, into the mayonnaise, and vigorously whisk the mayonnaise to incorporate the olive oil. Continue to whisk in the olive oil in small increments until all the oil is added. The mayonnaise will last for two weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  1. Add one cup of homemade mayonnaise to a small mixing bowl. Add the orange zest and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Whisk all the ingredients together. Taste the mayonnaise and add more orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until you get the right flavor and consistency you want. The orange mayonnaise will last for about one week in the refrigerator.
  2. When done, spoon into a small serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the asparagus.
  3. Arrange the asparagus on a serving plate and drizzle the orange mayonnaise across the asparagus.

Notes

Homemade mayonnaise in a blender or food processor. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, pinch of salt, garlic (if using), and one tablespoon of water into the bowl of your appliance. Mix together. With the motor running very slowly add the canola oil through the hole of the feed tube. Add the olive oil by hand the same way as described for the immersion blender technique.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

When I plan a meal the quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” is forever lurking in my brain, except when it comes to vegetables. I love vegetables and could easily have them take over half of my plate for any dinner meal. One vegetable I particularly love is sugar snap peas, and despite the fact that it is not spring, they are widely available at most stores in my area now.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar snap peas have a great sweet pea flavor and a snappy-crispy crunch. They could not be easier to prepare, just clean and trim the ends. Sometimes the fibrous string along the side needs to be pulled off, but I rarely feel it is necessary. I like to eat them raw in a salad, or quickly blanch or sauté them, then toss the snap peas with butter and fresh herbs.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

I wanted to make a vegetable side dish that would compliment my chicken entrée that was marinated in yogurt, tahini, and sriracha and roasted in the oven. With the chicken baking in the oven, I could spend the down time on creating a flavorful vegetable side dish. Truth be told, the real inspiration came from the fact that I just happened to have all the ingredients in my refrigerator. I know I should be more studious and plan every meal for the week, but often my dinners are spontaneous creations based on what is in my refrigerator. Spontaneous or not, this is a recipe that compliments most meat entrée and can be adapted for a vegetarian entrée as well.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipes

When cooking with vegetables most of the work involves cleaning and prepping the vegetables. The actual cooking time is very short. For this recipe I have a two-step cooking process for the sugar snap peas. First I blanch them for 30 seconds and set them aside until the mushrooms are sautéed. Then I add the snap peas to the pan with the mushrooms and sauté just long enough to get the sugar snap peas heated through. The blanching and minimal cooking time help maintain the bright green color and crispness of the peas. In this recipe the contrast of the crispy sugar snap peas with the silky sautéed shiitake mushrooms is part of its appeal.

Sautéed sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms pair beautifully together.  Add minced shallots, fresh ginger and garlic to the sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms you have a side dish that can stand on its own merit. Despite the potent ingredients the flavoring is subtle with the ginger adding a bright note that is not overwhelming. I happen to love cooking with fresh ginger. I do not find its flavor to sharp or biting. It is a sweet bite of spice. If you are not a fan of ginger, you can omit the ginger and the sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms will have plenty of flavor.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms and ginger can be paired with any grilled or roasted meat, chicken or fish. It would make a perfect Thanksgiving side vegetable that would brighten up the rich flavors of the turkey and gravy and stuffing. If you serve this recipe with rice or other grain, the sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms and ginger becomes a great vegetarian and vegan meal for Thanksgiving, or for any dinner. Sprinkle some chopped peanuts, almonds, or hazelnuts over the dish and it is even better for vegetarians by adding more protein.

Sugar Sanp Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

Bits and Tips making Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

What is a sugar snap pea?

A sugar snap pea is a member of the legume family that originated in East Asia. It is a cross between a snow pea and a garden, or English pea and is widely cultivated in North America. Like the snow pea, sugar snap peas are eaten whole: pod and seed together. They can be enjoyed raw or briefly cooked to keep the crisp snappy texture and bright green color. The fibrous string along the side may need to be removed.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

How to store mushrooms:

Mushrooms often come packaged in plastic containers and tightly sealed in plastic wrap. Plastic creates an overly moist environment that will quickly turn the mushrooms slimy. Paper bags are perfect for storing loose mushrooms. Be careful not to crowd the mushrooms, (or any vegetable) in an overly packed crisper drawer. Air movement keeps everything fresh longer.

How to clean mushrooms:

Sometimes mushrooms have a lot of dirt on them and brushing or wiping the dirt off the mushroom is not practical or effective. You can quickly rinse the mushrooms in running water and then pat dry with a paper towel or a clean cloth. Mushrooms are like sponges, so rinse them quick and do not soak them. Clean mushrooms right before you plan on using them.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipes

How to peel ginger: 

To peel the skin off of a knobby chunk of ginger root the best tool to use is a spoon. Hold the piece of ginger in your non-working had and a spoon in the other. Gently scratch the ginger skin with the side of the your spoon. The skin should scrape right off without you having to dig into the ginger root. Use a light hand when working. The spoon makes it easy to work around all the knobby ends.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

4-5 servings as a side dish

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger is a delicious vegetable side dish.This will pair well with Asian inspired main entrees or with grilled or roasted meats, chicken or fish. It is also the perfect Thanksgiving side dish that will brighten up the rich flavors of turkey with gravy, stuffing and potatoes.

To serve as a vegetarian entree serve Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger along with your favorite cooked grain, like brown rice. and add chopped nuts and/or sesame seeds.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb/ 455 g of sugar snap peas- cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot (about 3 oz/ 92 g)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 tea Kosher salt, divided
  • 8 oz/ 246 g shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Optional garnishes
  • About 1 to 2 Tb of chopped fresh herb of your choice- parsley, scallions, mint, chives, thyme, (see note)
  • Chopped nuts like peanuts, almonds or hazelnuts, or toasted sesame seeds are a great garnish

Instructions

    Prep
  1. Wash and cut the stem off the sugar snap peas. You can remove the little string at the tip if think it is unsightly.
  2. Cut the stem off the shiitake mushrooms right at the base of the mushroom cap. Discard the stem or reserve for making stock. Slice each mushroom cap in long 1/4 inch strips.
  3. Mince the shallots garlic and set aside in separate piles. If the garlic cloves have a green germ in the middle, remove it before mincing. Peel the skin off of the fresh ginger root then mince. Keep the vegetables in separate piles and set aside.
  4. Quickly blanch the prepared sugar snap peas in boiling salted water for about 30 seconds. As soon as the water returns to a boil. Drain the water from the sugar snap peas. Keep the peas in a colander and set aside.
    Putting it all together
  1. Heat a large 10 or 12 inch skillet on medium heat and add 1 Tb olive oil.
  2. Add the minced shallots and stir to evenly coat with the olive oil. Cook the shallots until they are translucent. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan and to prevent browning. About 4 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic, ginger and 1/4 tea Kosher salt, then stir to coat with the olive oil and mix with the shallots. Cook until the garlic and ginger become aromatic, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir until they are evenly combined with the shallot mixture. Cook the mushrooms and occasionally stir them until the mushrooms have reduced in size, look glossy and released all its liquid. About 5 minutes.
  5. Pour in the stock into the pan and stir to deglaze the pan and cook off the liquid for a minute.
  6. Add the sugar snap peas and the rest of the Kosher salt then stir to combine. Cook the vegetables briefly just to get the sugar snap peas heated all the way through. About 2 minutes.
  7. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  8. Serve immediately.

Notes

Depending on what you are serving the sugar snap peas with, will dictates what herb or garnish you may want to finish it with. Sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms with ginger is perfectly delicious as is, but I always like to add fresh herbs to finish a meal. For this recipe the ginger should remain the dominant seasoning, choose an herb, if using, to compliment the ginger and your main entree, like parsley and mint and use a light hand adding it.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.